Category Archives: Interiors

A tour of the State of Architecture exhibition

25 February, 2016
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IMG_0391 1. The exhibition highlights the key role architectural journals, books and magazines have played in sustaining the profession’s knowledge infrastructure.
IMG_0311 2. The exhibition asks and addresses the questions ‘Does architecture matter? Are architects still relevant in India, and can they contribute in any significant way to a nation-state and a society in extraordinary flux?’
IMG_0319 3. An impressive infographic guide maps with mustard, maroon and red dots, the changes in a number of spheres in the architectural profession between 1947 and 2016.
IMG_0318 4. We are pleased to report that Bombay is the most prominently featured Indian city in the exhibition’s ‘Book as Archive’ section, with publications Buildings that shaped Bombay (2000) and Bombay Planning and Dreaming (1965).
IMG_0339 5. The delicate Maulana Azad Memorial (1960) located between the Jama Masjid and the Red Fort in Delhi and designed by architect Habib Rahman. Many of the structures built in the early independence era have come under increasing threat, a recent article reports.
IMG_0350 6. The ingenious Hall of Nations (1971) at Pragati Maidan designed by Raj Rewal Architects, is another example of national architecture that is at the risk of being razed.
IMG_0383 7. On the top floor of the exhibition we get a sense of the challenges young architects face in India and their structural solutions to these challenges.
IMG_0369 8. These expanding and contracting vectors convey the foreseen and unforeseen challenges and rewards of the architectural profession today.
IMG_0373 9. ….and a reward in sight!
FullSizeRender 10. A photograph of the exhibition’s curators (L-R) Ranjit Hoskote, Rahul Mehrotra and Kaiwan Mehta, featured in the catalogue.

Interiors: Sir Cowasji Jehangir Public Hall (1920)

National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA), Esplanade Road.

‘The State of Architecture: Practices and Processes in India’ is an outstanding exhibition that surveys the state of the architectural profession in India from 1947 to the present day. It uses three historical milestones — Independence, the Emergency and Liberalisation — to chart the changing role of architecture in India over the decades.

On Level 1 of the Gallery we are made aware of how heavily the early nation state invested in architecture to articulate its aspirations and modernist visions. On Level 2, which moves into the 1970s, we find the state in a flux and the architectural profession operating separately with architects negotiating both tradition and modernity in their works.

On Level 3 we find India engaging in an increasingly globalised world of the 1990s and 2000s and architects exposed to a multiplicity of influences, trends and choices. Here the modern, post modern, folksy and subaltern all find room.

‘The State of Architecture’ is at the NGMA till 20 March 2016 and should not be missed. Follow the exhibition’s Facebook page for an equally impressive list of lectures and events to attend.

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The Mogul Masjid on 30th Street

5 February, 2016
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Facades: Mogul Shiah Jaamay Masjid (1917)

30th Street, Rangoon, Burma.

In our second guest post on a guest city, Mitra Sharafi explores the Masjid of the Mogul community of Rangoon.

Rangoon’s 30th Street is home to the stunning cream-and-black Shia mosque of the Mogul community. The Moguls are descendants of Persian Shia men and their Burmese wives. A plaque in front of the Mogul Shiah Jaamay Masjid lists the founding trustees, who managed the mosque’s affairs after the current structure was built during World War I. Their names reflect their ancestral homes in what is today Iran and Afghanistan. There are Kabulis (from Kabul) and Khorasanees (from the region of Khorasan), Ispahanys (from Isfahan) and most of all, Sherazees (from Shiraz).

When I visited in 2007, the managing trustee of the masjid was Dr. Mohammed Shafi Ata Sherazee, whose Burmese name was Maung Maung Ta. He shared with me his knowledge of the mosque. Dr. Sherazee described it as the grandest mosque in Burma and pointed out the impressive Italian marble staircase at the front entrance.

The mosque is distinctive for its two towering minarets, which are 110 feet tall and which regularly attract engineer visitors, curious to know about the depth and strength of the minarets’ foundations. Inside, three antique chandeliers hang in the congregation hall. They date to the mosque’s founding, and were donated by a Mogul barrister, Mirza Mohammed Jawad, who was a trustee of the mosque from 1917 until 1929. He donated the mosque’s clock, too—also ticking since 1917. The oldest structure in the complex may be a well from 1852. It was built by order of a British colonial official, Sir Arthur Phayre, Commissioner of Pegu Division, at the end of the second Anglo-Burmese war.
The masjid has a rich and colorful history. Its trustees fought a memorable court battle against the trustees of a local Sunni mosque: who was legally entitled to build taller minarets? The mosque and its trustees have hosted religious leaders from the Islamic Republic of Iran since the Iranian Revolution of 1979. A framed portrait of the Ayatollah Khomeini hung in the managing trustee’s office when I visited. Against this somber backdrop, Dr. Sherazee regaled me with stories from his own family history and life. His father and grandfather had both been Persian consuls to Burma. He fought for the Burmese National Army during World War II, then became a successful movie actor, starring in over 40 Burmese films. He had multiple wives and many children. And he wrote a doctoral dissertation at Dublin Metropolitan University: “Myanmar and the Shiah Muslims in Myanmar: The Development of the Shiah Muslims in Myanmar” (2004). It includes his own life story. Dr. Sherazee passed away at the age of 90 in 2015.
The history of the mosque lives as much through its caretakers’ stories as through the masjid’s physical structures.
Mitra Sharafi is a legal historian at the University of Wisconsin Law School. She is the author of Law and Identity in Colonial South Asia: Parsi Legal Culture, 1772-1947. Follow her on twitter @mjsharafi for the latest in the world of legal studies.

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A Tour of the People’s Free Reading Room and Library

19 January, 2016
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DhobiTalaoLibrary051. A staff member with a penetrating gaze and readers in the main reading room.DhobiTalaoLibrary022. Another staff member and readers in the newspaper section. DhobiTalaoLibrary033. A reader with an iconic Vithaldas Mewawala bag, bent over a newspaper. To his right, a marble tablet with the names of the subscribers to the Bombay Native General Library book fund of 1863. DhobiTalaoLibrary01 4. (L-R) Poet and cultural theorist, Ranjit Hoskote, and author and trustee of the Library, Jerry Pinto, examine a rare book.DhobiTalaoLibrary045. As she has always done. DhobiTalaoLibrary066. A bearded, smiling bust of Ardaseer Framjee Moos (1827-1895) commissioned by ‘His Friends, Admirers and Members of The Bombay Native General Library’.DhobiTalaoLibrary08 7. A bust of Nowrozjie Furdoonjei (1817-1885), ‘A Tribute of Respect and Admiration for His Lifelong Efforts in Promoting the Cause of the Social and Political Advancement of His Countrymen’, between student readers.DhobiTalaoLibrary07 8. A bust of John Harkness, Principal Elphinstone College, commissioned by ‘His Pupils, Assisted by the Leading Members of Native Community’, stands with its sideburns and nose dismembered.DhobiTalaoLibrary099. The marble top writing tables at the Library are mementos in memory of F. B. Khan. The monogram however reads MFK and we wonder if it stands for Memory of F. Khan.

Interiors: The People’s Free Reading Room and Library
Framjee Cowasjee Institute, oppoiste Kyani & Co., Dhobi Talao.

Everywhere in the People’s Free Reading Room and Library we are reminded of Bombay’s vibrant commemorative culture. Busts of local worthies, marble table tops and tablets, inscriptions on cupboards, all remind us that along with the famed philanthropical gifts of the city’s merchant princes, there were also more egalitarian and inclusive forms of gifting, in which an array of citizens could pool in their resources and commemorate a public figure.

Indeed it is this commemorative culture that makes the library a place by the ‘people’ and for the ‘people’.

Photos by Hashim Badani.

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Welcome to the glorious Esplanade House

27 March, 2015
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openingstairs 2CeilingCarvingMotifupstairsDoorTataexterior

Interiors: Esplanade House (1887)
Waudby Road, Fort.

Esplanade House, the palatial residence of industrialist Jamsetji Tata (1839-1904) has been restored to its former glory.

The painstaking restoration work, which took over a decade, was carried out by conservation architect Vikas Dilawari and was funded by the current owners of the building, the R. D. Sethna Scholarship Fund.

Our next photos series will focus on the intricate tiling patterns found on the various floors of the mansion.

Photos courtesy Jasmine Driver for Parsiana magazine.

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Radio what’s new?

23 February, 2015
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Interiors: Radio Restaurant

10 Musafir Khana, Palton Road.

A lot actually. The restaurant is run by Chilias, new entrants to the café business in Bombay that has long been dominated by Iranis.

Chilias were migrants from the Palanpur region of Gujarat and mainly worked as drivers in Bombay, as Victoria drivers and subsequently as taxi drivers.

They have proved astute players in the café business- maintaining and sprucing up the décor of the cafes like the family room, the list of NO rules (No talking loudly, No hard liquoral allowed) and at the famous Olympia restaurant at Colaba Causeway a fresh coat of paint for the walls and a good polish for the marble top tables.

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